Johnson was the first to play trombone with a combination of smooth and elegance, translating his tunes to a form of bop, making him one of the founders of the genre.
I Mean You features Johnson, Coleman Hawkins, trumpeter Fats Navarro, drummer Max Roach and pianist Hank Jones playing in unison, allowing the full swing come through.
Synthesizing the styles of Miles Davis and Navarro, trumpeter Kenny Dorham stands out, while Sonny Rollins experiences his own driving style during Elysee
John Lewis prevails on piano on Blue Mode, in an upbeat tempo, with solos by Johnson and Sonny Stitt.
Chazzanova, created by Charlie Mingus, offers quite a surprise, as Mingus usually creates in an up-tempo style. Chazzanova has a slow, almost melancholy feel, even during Johnson’s solo.
Miles Davis and Johnson each have solos on Blue ‘n’ Boogie, another hot swing tune. Lucky Thompson is spotlighted on tenor sax, with Percy Heath keeping a stealthy beat on bass.
Playing smoothly and in a controlled manner, Johnson teams with Kai Winding on Bags’ Groove showing plenty of range for both trombonists. Dick Katz wears the piano out, keeping the groove going strong.
Laura is done with Johnson and Hawkins as sidemen: A nice complement. Plenty of cool, smooth notes, augmented by Hank Jones’ busy fingers on the piano.
Gigi Gryce’s Hymn To The Orient shows the magic of Benny Golson’s tenor saxophone, with those long, low, sensual notes. Wynton Kelly does a soft background on the piano, later breaking into a peppy solo.
Horace is done as a gospel influenced composition by Johnson and trumpeter Nat Adderley, who goes from lower to upper register accompanied by Billy Childs on keyboard.
Pinnacles allows a wide spot for Tommy Flanagan on keyboards and clarinet. Stellar bass man, Ron Carter, handles the background, allowing the full range of Joe Henderson’s tenor sax to sway the audience.
The Count creates a relaxed blues atmosphere on Jaylock, in typical Basie fashion. Johnson does a strong solo as tenor saxophonist Lockjaw Davis does his own sensitive interpretation of the blues.
Ray Brown leads with bass for Concepts In Blue. Then, Johnson takes over with a strong trombone, with Ernie Watts doing tenor and alto saxophone, Clark Terry sharing the spot on trumpet.
The rest of this album features Johnson as the only horn player, finishing with Soft Winds.
Johnson retired in his hometown of Indianapolis but continued composing until the end of his days.
This compilation of tunes, with some of the greatest artists of all times, is a fitting tribute to one of the world’s greatest trombonists of all time.